Skip to main content



Do you realize who you might be offending?
Is your language not inclusive of someone’s identity?

It is easy to accidentally use offensive language, but since you could just as easily be on the receiving end of such language, you should try to ensure that you are not offending others with the words and phrases you use.

Below are some common phrases that could be considered offensive. Along with the phrases is information about why it could be considered offensive and who it offends. There are also alternate words that can be used in place of the non-inclusive language.



This phrase supports stereotypical beliefs that the culture and environments of racial minorities and individuals who are from a lower socio- economic status are inferior, delinquent, or unequal.

Keep in mind that this phrase may offend people who grew up in urban areas or are from a lower socio-economic status.

Use instead: Tasteless, Wack, Grimey, Awkward, Broken, Messed Up


This phrase supports stereotypical beliefs that individuals with mental, emotional, or physical disabilities should be viewed as abnormal, substandard, or defective.

Keep in mind that this phrase might offend people who have a disability.

Use instead: Ridiculous, Off-base, Wack, Improper, Wrong


This phrase supports homophobic beliefs that people who do not identify as heterosexual or straight are delinquent, abnormal, or wrong.

Keep in mind that this may offend people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Use instead: Inappropriate, Weird, Strange, Out of Place/Order/Line, Wrong

sexual assault

This phrase casually minimizes the experience for rape victims. It can keep victims quiet and allow perpetrators to get away with a crime, sending the message that we as a community tolerate sexual assault.

Keep in mind that this may offend people who are survivors of sexual assault.

Use instead: Hard, Impossible, Tough, Difficult, Brutal


This phrase supports stereotypical beliefs that undocumented immigrants are less than human and the phrase does not acknowledge contributions by undocumented immigrants and the complexity of the immigration process particularly as at pertains to the college student population.

Keep in mind that this phrase may offend people who are undocumented and/or trying to achieve citizenship in the context of a complex family immigration status.

Use instead: immigrants, undocumented immigrants, undocumented citizens


This phrase supports stereotypical beliefs that a group of individuals look like the "typical" terrorist. The phrase does not acknowledge that one cannot not determine if someone is a terrorist just by looking at them. Terrorists come in different forms and assuming that someone is a terrorist could prove to be inaccurate.

Keep in mind that this phrase may offend people who are of Arab decent, Muslim, and people who phenotypically look like the stereotype of a terrorist

Use instead: nothing, never assume


Non-inclusive language can offend or make spaces uncomfortable for people who are excluded by that language.

If you hear someone using language that is offensive to you or you think might exclude other students, ask that person what they mean by their words and help them to see how their words impact others who live and work on our campus.

Every student, staff, and faculty member should feel welcome on our campus regardless of their identity, life experience, or background.

Together, sharing each other's stories, we can help people see that their words have power!

Back to Top